Boehner Hires Really Expensive Lawyer to Defend DOMA, Is a Real Anti-Gay Go-Getter

Hey remember all those threats from Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner that he was going to use government money to defend DOMA in court? Which is confusing because the government, albeit a different part of it, was also responsible for deciding not to defend DOMA in court. I know. Anyways, good news, that is apparently not just a threat anymore! If John Boehner has his way, this is on like Donkey Kong.


Boehner and the House of Representatives have hired Paul Clement of the King & Spaulding law firm. Clement is a former US Solicitor General; interestingly, Prop 8 trial lawyer Ted Olson was the US Solicitor General that came before him, making for some neat symmetry. He’s also shared a client – the NFL – with David Boies. It’s a small world when it comes to high-profile litigation around same-sex marriage, apparently.

Clement has been referred to as “the LeBron James of law firm recruiting,” and at one point was tapped by George W. Bush to be the future Attorney General. It was speculated that in a potential John McCain presidency, he might be a Supreme Court justice. His most recent high-profile case was defending the NRA in McDonald v. Chicago. It seems relatively safe to say that in addition to being a talented lawyer, Paul Clement has some genuine socially conservative leanings, and that his appointment to this case was not a coincidence in that regard. (Although it’s worth noting that the website for King & Spaulding states that “King and Spaulding is committed to having the brightest and most diverse lawyers it can find, including members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)community,” and also that for employees of its firm, “Domestic Partner benefits are offered for same-sex couples.”)

Paul Clement’s King & Spaulding law firm is objectively described as “blue chip;” Clement is rumored to be in the $5 million per year bracket. We probably won’t be told how much the House is paying Clement, but we do know where Boehner wants the money to come from:

“The burden of defending DOMA, and the resulting costs associated with any litigation that would have otherwise been born by DOJ, has fallen to the House.Obviously, DOJ’s decision results in DOJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA. It is my intent that those funds be diverted to the House for reimbursement of any costs incurred by and associated with the House, and not DOJ, defending DOMA.”

His idea seems, at best, willfully ignorant of the fact that the reason the DoJ has given up “the burden of defending DOMA” is because it has ruled the amendment unconstitutional and therefore an irresponsible use of the government’s time and money. His whole scheme seems pretty willfully ignorant in general, in fact, given the fact that the government almost shut down because of a lack of funding, and is still limping along on a lot of talk about compromise. Just for the sake of full disclosure, here are some of the current headlines about John Boehner and the government’s budget:

While Boehner’s maneuvering in the budget negotiations in Congress have been lauded by some, others are harshly critical of his allowing more spending in the final budget than he originally promised conservative voters. Do those voters fear same-sex marriage enough to approve spending money we don’t have in order to fight it? That’s what Nancy Pelosi wants to know: she says that the House still hasn’t provided an actual cost for hiring Clement, nor has anyone been allowed to see his contract. Clement will receive $520/hour for his services, and some reports indicate that this is a deal and the firm typically makes up to $900/hour. It seems like creating 50 new $10/hour jobs for American citizens would be a better way to spend that money, but I digress.

“Unfortunately, your letter did not respond to the central question in my March 11th letter: the cost to taxpayers of hiring outside legal counsel,” Pelosi wrote. “Again, I am requesting that you disclose the cost of hiring outside counsel for the 12 cases where DOMA is being challenged.”

This is just really special on so many levels!

After a few Presidential terms in a row of jokes about secession and dividing up the country between red and blue, it’s still shocking to see this play itself out in Congress; bipartisanship is one thing, but the relationship between the House and the rest of the legislative and executive branches is starting to look like an all-out war within our own government. Which is maybe unsurprising; the current GOP has been identified as a party of warhawks for a long time now.

But it’s never been so clear that winning what they’ve decided is a cultural war has trumped what’s always been the basic tenets of the Republican party: reducing government spending, cutting taxes, and making sure that the White House stays out of our homes and our lives. When did that happen? And how long is it going to last?

P.S. Maybe go sign this petition real quick: Tell Law Firm King & Spalding Don’t Defend Bigotry Against LGBT People

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. $520 for ONE HOUR?!? That’s one month’s rent for me.



    • dude, as i unfortunately had the extreme pleasure to learn last spring (what we now refer to as “the beginning of the end”) (which of course as we all know is no longer the end), lawyers are FUCKING EXPENSIVE. like a really good one is AT LEAST $250/hour at least in nyc. idk. i guess this is somehow related to law school being expensive?

      • When you pay your first year associates $165,000 / yr (the going rate for top law firms in NYC and other large legal markets) it’s no wonder that they charge the rates that they do to their clients. Some partners at the largest firms (Wachtell, Cravath, Skadden, Kirkland & Ellis…) can make up to $1000 / billable hour.

        Hooray for going to work for the government instead!

      • I would do pro bono legal work for autostraddle but I’m only licensed in Oregon and not in California or New York

    • Also, while the billed rate is $520/hr, it’s not as though that’s actually how much the lawyers in question get paid. It’s a bit different for partners with equity sharing etc., but an associate for example…

      On a normal case defending a corporate client, a big firm might bill their junior associates out at $300-$400 / hour. Associates at large firms are expected to bill between 2000-2300 hours per year. Of course, you can’t bill a client for every hour that you work, since you’re not ordinarily doing actual billable work for every second that you happen to be in your office. Time records are usually kept in six minute increments and it wouldn’t be uncommon for associates at these firms to work, at a minimum, eighty hour work weeks pretty much every week of the year.

      Sooo… $400 / hr billable rate x 2,150 billable hours = $860,000 / year (what the firms are “selling” associates for)

      80 hour work week x 49 weeks = 3,920 hours of worked time per year. $160,000 / year annual salary (not including bonus) / 3,920 hours of worked time = $40.1 / hour.

      Aren’t the economics of law firms so interesting? Or maybe it’s just me that thinks so?

      • That is very interesting; I know junior lawyers worked crazy hours but didn’t realize how profitable it was for the firms. Perhaps even more interesting is to compare those numbers to those of, say, teachers.

        In Louisiana, where I grew up, new teachers start out around $31,000 a year. Most are paid to work 8 hours a day/40 hours a week, but with staff meetings, after-school tutoring or activities, lesson planning, and grading, the vast majority wind up working 10 or 11 hours a day. The minimum number of school days in a year in LA is 177, but at year-round schools (increasingly common in my area) that may be 195 days.

        11 hours a day x 195 days = 2,145 hours of worked time/yr. $31,000/yr / 2,145 worked hours = $14.45 an hour.

        My mom used to be a teacher, and now she’s a file clerk at the voting registrar. She makes $14 an hour there, too. Without the screaming kids.

        • Yeah, I mean it’s still a really generous salary by any stretch of the imagination (before the economy tanked it was rising quite rapidly too — in 2006 the top rate was like 145, and in 2004 130k)… plus you get raises virtually every year and a bonus of anywhere from $10,000 – $30,000, depending on how many years at the firm you’ve had and how financially healthy your firm is.

          And, of course, the amount of work you’re able to do varies with how intense your firm is and how well your practice area is doing in the economy. Still, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the firms essentially own their associates for all intents and purposes. There’s an awful lot of turnover around year four at most of those places.

          Once again, hooray lawyering for the government!

    how is this a thing? i don’t understand how anyone can justify the amount of time that’s wasted doing absolutely stupid shit like this. nevermind how it affects my rights as a freaking u.s. citizen for christssake but SERIOUSLY they’re just wasting so much fucking time! do they not have actually important things that are like, time-sensitive? that probs need to be handled like, yesterday? jesus.

    • Important, timely things? Like the government SHUTTING DOWN? Nah, that’s not nearly as important as defending marriage against the gays or holding pointless racist hearings about Muslim Americans.

      *headdesk, repeatedly*

      • i felt like i had no words whatsoever for this, y’know? i mean, i have no logical string of words to put together in order to convey how i’m feeling right now because clearly this whole deal is NOT.EVEN.FUCKING.LOGICAL.

        but then i read your “*headdesk, repeatedly*” – and really that’s basically all i’ve got here.

  3. Hmm…maybe I should have been a lawyer. For a political campaign of some sort. $520/hr. Wow…didn’t know that was possible. I’m actually…slightly speechless. Well, how do you all feel about anarchy…just saying.

    • Don’t do it, you’ll end up with six figures in student loans and a horrible legal job market where it can be nearly impossible to find a job where you actually use your law degree and if you do you won’t be making six figures (everyone talks about the junior associates making 100k+ a year but there really aren’t that many of them (and they’re all from top 10% of their class from ivy league schools))

  4. Now would be about the traditional time for the pics of John Boehner snorting coke of rentboys to come out right?

    Because seriously if you’re not deep into self hatred territory surely like ANYTHING that’s going on in the world right now is more important that defending DOMA, which doesn’t even mean gay couples would stop being able to get married in several states anyway but IS unconstitutional. What is the deal?

  5. Boehner’s under threat of being primaried by the Teabaggers because at the last minute in the budget crisis, he decided not to be a COMPLETE asshole and to give up some things so that the government wouldn’t shut down.* I’m pretty sure defending DOMA has at least something to do with trying to win those supporters back.

    *Which I just don’t get. Are Tea Party members really THAT disconnected from reality?

  6. This is RIDICULOUS! With the unemployment rate so high, the federal budget so high, and so many other BIG issues going on the Republicans would rather spend OUR (the LGBT communities) taxes on an attorney that will try to defend denying us our constitutional rights. Seems fair to me right?

    If they want to use MY taxes to stop MY constitutional rights then I should have the right to refuse to pay said taxes….right????

    MAD right now!

  7. Last time my [republican Ohioan] mum and I talked about politics, I asked her if she’d write a letter to Boehner to tell him that his social beliefs don’t represent her and she said yes. I think it’s about time for that letter.

    • bless your mom and good luck with that. I wrote Boehner a letter about defending DOMA and didn’t even get so much as an e-mail back saying “hey, we got it.” I didn’t really expect much, but it’s still fucking frustrating. I’ve decided that even if my (conservative) legislators aren’t going to defend my rights that I at the very least can bombard them with letters and phone calls and annoy the absolute shit out of them.

      this became on tangentially related to your comment. sorry.

  8. “But it’s never been so clear that winning what they’ve decided is a cultural war has trumped what’s always been the basic tenets of the Republican party: reducing government spending, cutting taxes, and making sure that the White House stays out of our homes and our lives.”

    ^ I wish this wasn’t so completely true.



    We don’t have money for important social programs and they can’t even decide on a budget without threatening to shut down the freaking government and people still don’t have jobs and everything is still fucked, but he wants to pay this guy $520/hour to defend a law THAT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND MORALLY QUESTIONABLE in 12 different cases? Is this really happening? How can things like this happen? When the fuck did our government decide it was totally okay for us to pay them to play games all day while fucking us over?


  10. I voted against the man…twice. Sorry,I tried.

    I am a lone queer in the hell mouth adjacent city of Cincinnati. I graduate soon. As I run, I will leave a shadow that would make B.Bunny proud.

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